SOUTH ORANGE, NJ -- What is the connection between our basic need for food and the industry that feeds us? With a recent screening of the 2008 Academy Award-nominated documentary Food, Inc., Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel (TSTI) joined with three other houses of worship to discuss food justice in today’s society.

The event was sponsored by GreenFaith, an interfaith coalition for the environment. Hosted at Barnert Temple, Franklin Lakes and with participation from members of St. Andrew and Holy Communion Episcopal Church, South Orange and Stanley Congregational Church, Chatham, the discussion following the screening of Food, Inc., focused on the issues highlighted in the film, including the need for organic, sustainable food sources; obesity, diabetes and other diseases that are the result of America’s diet of high calorie processed foods; factory farming; pesticides and the global food crisis.

According to TSTI GreenFaith representative Sue Hoch, “Our nation’s food supply and the ‘food industrial complex’ that provides so much of what we eat are in critical need of investigation and correction. Tonight’s program is an important step as we consider the environmental consequences of how and what we produce, as well as steps we can take to resolve the problems.”

Since October 2010, Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel has been one of seven Reform congregations in New Jersey to participate in launching the Greening Reform Judaism Pilot Program. The comprehensive Certification Program helps houses of worship across North America become environmental leaders through initiatives in facilities management, religious education and worship, and environmental justice.

TSTI is taking part in a wide variety of activities as part of the two year Certification Program. Upon completion in May 2012, TSTI will be certified as a GreenFaith Sanctuary and will be looked to as leaders in the Reform Movement’s greening efforts. The team, which is co-chaired by the synagogue members Sue and Phil Hoch, is currently working on our action plan, with activities that include:

  • Continue to green the TSTI facilities’ operations Conducting environmental justice education and advocacy
  • Offer environmentally-themed worship services and education programs for all ages
  • Communicate our work to local media outlets
  • Take on the additional responsibility of serving as mentors to other Reform Jewish communities nationwide seeking to deepen their engagement with environmentalism Congregational leaders will attend Union social action programs to share their experiences with the Reform Movement.

In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing all that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government's regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, herbicide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won't go bad, but we also have new strains of E. coli—the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults. Food, Inc. reveals surprising—and often shocking truths—about what we eat, how it's produced, who we have become as a nation and where we are going from here.

GreenFaith is an interfaith coalition for the environment that was founded in 1992. They work with houses of worship, religious schools and people of all faiths to help them become better environmental stewards.

Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel, a Reform Jewish congregation in South Orange, has long been the spiritual home to a diverse community that welcomes and includes Jews of traditional and non- traditional backgrounds, young families, singles, empty-nesters, multi-generational households and families with non-Jewish spouses or parents.

Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel offers a wide range of programs and opportunities, from its thriving pre-school and well-regarded elementary, middle and high school religious education to its social action and “Green Team” activities. We welcome all who wish to participate in the traditions and rituals of the Jewish people. Our goal is to perpetuate the religious principles and moral values of Judaism by providing an environment for worship, education, spirituality, and service for our members and the larger community.